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From the painting by Gilbert Stuart. By permission of Mrs. W. Horace Hepburn, of 
Philadelphia, Grand-niece of Commodore Barry 

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WARSHIP "SYBILLE" Facing p. 34 





PHIA, PA " 72 


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The Father of the American Navy 

Beneath his guidance, lo! a navy springs, 
An infant navy spreads its canvas wings. 

ONE of the finest types in the entire his- 
tory of the American navy is Commo- 
dore John Barry, the first Captain placed in 
command of the first war- vessel commissioned 
to fight under the Continental flag — the Lex- 
ington, named after the first battle on land in 
the Revolution: and it was Barry who cap- 
tured in battle the first British war -vessel, 
and thus achieved the honor of having the 
first British flag struck to him in naval battle, 
in the struggle for independence under au- 
thority of the Continental Congress. 

The indomitable courage, devotion to duty, 
and successful achievements which character- 

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• •;•;••• • • 

•••• >i • • •: ; • .•• r 


ized the entire career of Commodore Barry, his 
splendid naval and military record as a soldier, 
won for him the admiration of friends and foes 
— and require no emphasis or embellishment 
by eulogistic remarks; a patriot without re-' 
proach, one who loved his country, so that in 
serving it he wanted no recompense — a grate- 
ful nation should mete out the act of tardy 
justice, so long delayed, to Commodore John 
Barry, in a way of befitting honor to the 
memory of the Father of the American navy, 
and a great patriot in the early destinies of 
our country — so that his memory will live 
until the end of time: 

His glory nothing lacks, 
But ours lacks him. 


Without illumination I propose for the 
moment to direct attention to the early 
part taken by John Barry in the cause of 
liberty and independence. We find among 
the signers of the Non-Importation Resolves 
the name of John Barry, a ship-master of 
Philadelphia, actively engaged in the mercan- 
tile marine mainly to and from $outh Amer- 


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ican and West Indian ports until 1774, when 
he made voyages in the Black Prince, the 
finest, largest, and fastest of the American 
commercial fleet, sailing from Philadelphia to 
British ports. He took an active part in the 
early movements of the colonies for liberty 
and independence. 

Affairs of the colonies were becoming more 
and more strained with England. A congress 
of the colonies met at Philadelphia. The 
Non-Importation Resolves (which Barry sub- 
scribed to and signed) were set forth in 
the Articles of Association entered into in 
1770 by the gentlemen of the house of bur- 
gesses and the body of merchants assembled 
in Williamsburg, Fairfax County, Colony of 
Virginia, in opposition to taxes imposed by 
England to raise revenue upon the people of 
the colony. They contain a number of 
clauses (resolves): one, against the purchas- 
ing of English goods, etc. ; another to stop the 
further importation of slaves and to suppress 
those slave-traders w T ho were engaged in that 
nefarious traffic. (See reprints on file in the 
manuscript rooms of the Congressional Li- 
brary at Washington, D. C.) 


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While Barry was in London with his ship, 
the Black Prince, much history was being 
made — and observing the trend of events, 
he, in September, 1775, hastily returned to 
Philadelphia. He arrived home on October 
13, the very day Congress resolved to fit out 
two armed cruisers, one of fourteen guns, the 
other of ten guns. Barry at once offered his. 
ship and services to Congress, which were 
accepted. His business affairs then were at 
the height of their prosperity, but his sym- 
pathies were so strongly and fervently with 
the cause of the colonies that he sacrificed his 
fortune and private interests and at once en- 
listed in the Continental navy. 

barry's rank that of senior 

From that day, October 13, 1775, to the end 
of his eventful career (by death) September 13, 
1803, John Barry was the senior or ranking 
officer of his ship and squadrons, and at no 
time did he serve under the orders of a senior 
officer, reporting direct to Washington, Con- 
gress, or to the secret and marine committees, 


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The history that accompanies the data 
hereinafter to be given is taken from the 
Continental and United States Congressional 
Records; official and private letters of Wash- 
ington, Robert Morris, Franklin, Benjamin 
Rush, McHenry, Stoddert, and others; papers 
of the marine and secret committees, and, 
therefore, is not subject to the distrust that 
accompanies all accounts of " history " made to 
order or taken from the memoirs or personal 
diaries of the actor himself or its direct bene- 
ficiaries. Unofficial records are entitled to re- 
spect, though like all authority of this nature, 
their facts should be received with caution. 

It would seem meet, then, that measures 
should at once be taken by the proper govern- 
mental authorities for the accurate compila- 
tion of the official records of service and 
characteristics — as evidenced in such records, 
manuscripts, etc., as are in reach of and now 
in the possession of the government — of each 
distinguished officer of the early navy (known, 
perhaps, to the older officers of the navy, but 
unknown to the public), and arranged in al- 


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phabetical order and in chronological sequence 
as to be available in print for the use of mid- 
shipmen at Annapolis, and for distribution, 
either free or at a nominal fixed price, for 
public and semi-public libraries for the correct 
information of a generous public — so that he 
who runs may read and he who reads may know. 

Washington's trust in barry 

It was befittingly left to our immortal 
Washington to repose special trust and con- 
fidence in Barry's patriotism, valor, and 
abilities by rapid promotion, as evidenced by 
executive appointments and high commis- 
sions on special, hazardous, and most impor- 
tant voyages — and so recorded by trust- 
worthy and dispassionate commentators, such 
as James Fenimore Cooper, Dr. Benjamin 
Rush, Dennie, Preble, Abbot, Frost, Charles 
A. Dana, George Ripley, and others of high 
literary attainments — esteemed, respected, 
and supported by Washington, who attached 
Barry as his aide-in-chief at the very com- 
mencement of hostilities, showing clearly that 
Barry is justly entitled to the designation of 
father of the American navy. 


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On October 5, 1775, Washington directed 
a letter to Congress, with an urgent request 
to that body for the building, or purchasing 
and equipping, of two vessels, one of fourteen 
guns, the other of ten guns, to be placed at his 
disposal and under his orders, etc. 

On October 13, 1775, Congress, taking into 
consideration the report of the committee — 
Deane, Langdon, and Gadsden — appointed to 
prepare a plan for intercepting vessels com- 
ing out with stores and ammunition, after 
some debate, Resolved: "That two vessels 
carrying, one fourteen, and the other ten 
guns, a proportionable number of swivels and 
men should be fitted out." 

This was the commencement of our Amer- 
ican navy, and what became known as 
Washington's fleet. The heavier armed, the 
Lexington, 14 guns, was given to the com- 
mand of Capt. John Barry. He was ap- 
pointed captain (the highest rank attainable 
by authority of the Continental Congress) on 
December 7, 1775, though selected some time 
previous to that date by Washington. 


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The proposal of fitting out a fleet to com- 
bat the greatest and most powerful sea force 
of the world, that of Great Britain — said to 
be of a thousand ships — did, indeed, seem to 
be to the most resolute defenders aside from 
Washington, Morris, Barry, Rutledge, and a 
few others, a foolhardy undertaking, and when 
Rutledge, of South Carolina, moved the ap- 
pointment of a committee to prepare a plan 
and estimate of a fleet, many made the propo- 
sition a subject of ridicule. 


With the Lexington Barry put to sea, and 
with his light brig was enabled to pass 
through a narrow channel left open and free 
from heavy ice, the main channel of the then 
heavily ice-blocked Delaware River at that 
time being impassable ; and in Preble's Origin 
of the Flag it is declared that his (the Lexing- 
ton) "was the first vessel that bore the 
Continental flag to victory on the ocean.' ' 

The incident of raising the first "American 
flag" on the Alfred in the earlier months of 
1776 is always related with patriotic glamor, 
as though the stars and stripes, our national 


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or American flag, was first hoisted by the then 
Lieut. John Paul Jones, as so often has been 
stated in public print. 

In the Journals of the Continental Congress, 
Vol. 8, the following resolution was adopted 
on June 14, 1777: Resolved, "That the flag 
of the United States be thirteen stripes, alter- 
nate red and white; that the Union be a blue 
field, representing a new constellation.' ' 

The first mention on the records of the 
nation presents the name of John Paul Jones 
to Congress on December 22, 1775, as first 
on the lists of lieutenants of the new navy- 
reported by the marine committee for confirm- 
ation. He was appointed as a lieutenant to 
the Alfred, commanded by Captain Salton- 
stall. That the gallant Paul Jones served 
our country well, both as a lieutenant and 
afterward as a captain in the navy, is un- 


In the History of the United States Navy, 
by James Fenimore Cooper (himself a mid- 
shipman in the navy, attaining the rank of a 
lieutenant, and acquiring an experience which 


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he found most useful in his literary career), 
published in 1839, the following appears in 
Vol. 1 : " For the first regular cruise that ever 
got to sea under the new government we must 
refer to the Lexington, 14 guns, a little brig, 
the command of which was given to Capt. 
John Barry, a ship-master of Philadelphia of 
credit and skill. The honor has long been 
claimed for Captain Barry, and, on as close 
examination of the facts as our means will 
allow, we believe it is his due. The Lexington 
must have left the Capes of the Delaware late 
in January or early in February, and her orders 
were to sail southward/' 


"As an offset," writes Cooper, "to the 
escape of the British ship Glasgow ; 20 guns, 
after engaging 'Commodore' Esek Hopkins's 
squadron, consisting of the Alfred, 24 guns; 
Columbus, 20 guns; Andrea Doria, 14 guns; 
Cabot, 14 guns and the Providence, 12 guns, off 
the east end of Long Island, on the morning 
of April 6, 1776, the Lexington, Captain Barry, 
a small brig of 14 guns, fell in with the 
Edward, an armed tender of the Liverpool, 


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on April 7, 1776, off the Capes of Virginia, 
and, after a close and spirited action of nearly 
an hour, captured her. The Lexington had 
four of her crew killed and wounded, while the 
Edward was cut nearly to pieces and met with 
a very heavy loss of men." 

Barry succeeded in entering Delaware Bay 
with his prize, though strongly blockaded by 
British war-ships, and arrived at Phila- 
delphia on April 11, 1776, bringing the news 
direct to Congress of the first capture of an 
armed vessel taken in battle, and thus the 
honor of having the first British flag struck 
to him by a British war- vessel in battle under 
Continental authority, and rejoicing the hearts 
of the patriots so much that even John Adams 
gleefully wrote: "We begin to make some 
figure in the navy way. ' ' Richard Henry Lee, 
in a letter describing the event, narrated that 
the enemy did not submit .until he was near 

Frost, in his Commodores of the Navy, writes : 
" In February, 1776, he (Barry) was appointed 
to the command of the brig Lexington, 14 
guns. She was the first Continental vessel of 
war that sailed from the port of Philadelphia/ ' 


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In the American Cyclopedia, which was pro- 
jected in 1857 by Charles A. Dana, formerly 
Assistant Secretary of War (1 863-1 864), man- 
aging editor of the New York Tribune (1849- 
1862), late editor-in-chief and former owner 
of the New York Sun (George Ripley, formerly 
literary editor of the New York Tribune and 
associate editor with Dana in the American 
Cyclopedia), appears the following: "At the 
commencement of the Revolution Barry of- 
fered his services to Congress, and in Febru- 
ary, 1776, was appointed to command the 
Lexington, 14 guns, and after a sharp action 
took the tender Edward, the first war- vessel 
captured by a commissioned officer of the 

Josiah Bartlett, a signer of the Declaration 
of Independence, writing to John Langdon, 
said: "Captain Barry in the Lexington has 
taken and sent in here a privateer of 6 guns, 
commanded by another of those famous 
Goodriches, of Virginia/ ' Caesar Rodney, 
another signer, wrote on August 3, 1776: 
"Yesterday came to town an armed vessel 
taken by Captain Barry at sea." 

Henry Fisher, in his report to the committee 

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of safety of Pennsylvania, wrote: " Last even- 
ing the Kingfisher, a British man-of-war, re- 
turned into our road with a prize brigantine, 
Captain Walker, of Wilmington, but, luckily 
for us, our brave Captain Barry had been 
aboard of her and taken out the powder and 
arms." It may be well here to state that the 
records of the secret and safety committees at 
that time show that the patriots were sadly 
in need of powder and arms. 

Three more vessels were captured by Barry 
with the Lexington, and then upon his return 
to Philadelphia he took charge as superin- 
tendent of the construction of war-ships then 
building on the Delaware River. 


These captures and achievements of our 
infant navy thrilled the patriots to new en- 
deavor, for those first months of the war were, 
as Thomas Paine wrote of them — " the times 
that tried men's souls." 

"Capt. John Barry, whose spirited action 
off the Capes of Virginia, in the Lexington, 14 
guns, has been mentioned," writes Cooper, 
2 13 

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"and whose capture, April 7, 1776, of the 
Edward on that occasion is worthy of note 
as having been the first of any vessel of war 
that was ever made by a regular American 
cruiser in battle.' ' 

Barry's report of this victory embraced a 
few lines, giving the bare details, and con- 
cluding: "I have the happiness to acquaint 
you that all our people behaved with much 
courage.' ' Barry was innately modest in re- 
gard to his public (naval) and private achieve- 
ments. He kept a strict account in detail of 
what he thought were his mistakes — but not 
of his successes. 


Barry was the active spirit of the marine 
committee, and during the next few months 
remained in and about the Delaware capes 
under orders "to take, sink, and destroy the 
enemy's vessels." 

Under the direction of Washington and 
Robert Morris — the latter a signer and the 
financier of the Revolution — Barry was placed 
in command (commander-in-chief) of the port 


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of Philadelphia, then the largest mercantile 
and shipping port of the country. 


Here we take leave of the Lexington, the 
first war-vessel commissioned and given to 
the command of Capt. John Barry, who, in the 
dead of night, brought his little brig past the 
guns of two large British war-ships, then 
guarding the mouth of the Delaware, going 
out single-handed fl to take, sink, and destroy 
the enemy's ships," such as merchantmen and 
armed privateers, and harass and to attack 
the ships of England's powerful sea force 
(a British fleet composed of 70 armed vessels 
then guarding the coast, among which were 
the Roebuck, 44 guns, and the I sis, 32 guns, 
then guarding the mouth of the Delaware 
River; with the Pearl, 32 guns, the Liverpool, 
28 guns, and the Augusta and Merlin guarding 
the capes of Delaware), and, once clear of the 
shore, he unfurled for the first time under 
Continental authority that flag "which has 
ever since floated in triumph over every wave, 
and never while God is Just will it disappear 
from the sea that it ruled." 


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Barry's exploits were rewarded by his 
appointment to command the Effingham, a 
frigate of 28 guns, then being built under 
his supervision at Philadelphia. Before her 
completion she was taken up the Delaware 
River to escape the British army which then 
invested Philadelphia, and was afterward 
destroyed by order of Congress "to pre- 
vent it falling into the hands of the British 
forces," though Barry, with violent empha- 
sis, opposed her destruction, and left no 
doubt in the minds of the committee of his 
serious earnestness — and again time proved 
the correctness of Barry's judgment. 


Tiring of what he termed inactivity in 
awaiting to take command of the incomplet- 
ed Effingham, Barry manned four small row- 
boats, having spied a large schooner mounting 
10 guns and flying the British flag, with four 
armed transports,loaded with provisions and 
forage for the enemy's forces, lying below Phil- 
adelphia, then invested by the British army; 

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he rowed down the river, with muffled oar-locks, 
passing the guarded river-front of the city dur- 
ing the night and, at early daylight, succeeded 
in rowing his boats alongside of the armed 
schooner, and before the English suspected the 
presence of any enemy, Barry, at the head of 
his men, was clambering over the rail of the 
schooner, cutlass and pistol in hand. The 
astonished Englishmen threw down their arms 
and rushed below. The victorious Americans 
battened down the hatches. Barry ordered the 
soldiers and sailors on the four transports to 
surrender on penalty of being fired into, and 
triumphantly, and in sight of a heavily armed 
British war-ship lying below, carried all five 
prizes to the piers at Fort Penn, and put the 
four transports in charge of Captain Middleton, 
who had command of the fort. Then the 
hatches were removed, and the American 
sailors being drawn up in line, Barry ordered 
the prisoners to come on deck. 

It was found that Barry with his twenty- 
seven (27) American sailors had captured one 
major, two captains, three lieutenants, and one 
hundred and thirty armed soldiers, sailors, and 


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That was the most brilliant feat of arms 
upon the seas, and it was the most far-reaching 
in its results. From that moment the British 
in Philadelphia became insecure. They felt 
their supplies in danger. Indeed, it hastened 
the withdrawal of the British forces from 

Frost, in his Naval Biography, said of this 
achievement: "For boldness of design and 
dexterity of execution it was not surpassed 
during the war." 


Part of the stores were forwarded to 
General Washington, and the prisoners were 
turned over to the proper authorities. The 
heavily armed British war-ship which was 
lying below in the river having hove in sight, 
Barry took the captured schooner into shallow 
water, hoping to save the schooner from being 
recaptured, but in this he was unsuccessful. 
Barry succeeded in landing his prisoners with 
war supplies, and then, firing a shotted cannon 
down the hatchways of the captured schoon- 
er, destroyed her before the British war-ship 
came up. 


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Washington wrote Barry the following 
letter: "I congratulate you on the success 
which has crowned your gallantry and address 
in the late attack upon the enemy's ships. 
Although the circumstances have prevented 
you from reaping the full benefit of your con- 
quests, yet there is ample consolation in the 
degree of glory which you have acquired. 
You will be pleased to accept my thanks for 
the good things which you were so polite as 
to send to me, with my wishes that a suitable 
recompense may always attend your bravery." 

Washington took occasion to publicly thank 
Barry and his sailors for this extraordinary 
achievement, etc. 

Of this, and similar character of service, 
Franklin wrote: " Nothing will give us greater 
weight and importance in the eyes of the 
commercial world than a conviction that we 
can annoy on occasion their trade and carry 
our prizes into safe harbors." 


Terror reigned in Philadelphia. Even the 
great Washington sounded the note of de- 


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spair. "In ten days," he wrote, "this army 
will cease to exist. We are at the end of our 
tether." From New York across New Jersey 
he was being pursued by Comwallis. Barry 
quickly organized a company of volunteers 
and went to Washington's aid. On that 
gloomy Christmas eve he rendered valiant aid 
in transporting Washington and his army 
across the ice-blocked Delaware, and served 
with honors and distinction in the victor- 
ies of Trenton, Princeton, and elsewhere, 
that again gave heart to the despairing pa- 
triots and drove the English back to New 


Here we find Barry again fighting in the 
field under Washington. The following is a 
copy of Washington's letter to Barry: 

Headquarters, 15th April, 1778. 

To Captain John Barry: 

Sir, — In a letter received from you some days past 
were enclosed the paroles of some officers; those I 
have delivered to the Commissary-General of Pris- 
oners. Yesterday I received the articles agree- 


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able to the bill sent me by Major Burnet and by 
him or when he sends down yott shall receive the 

The men at present under your command belonging 
to General Varnum's Brigade I cannot think of suf- 
fering to remain with you, so long as you perhaps 
may wish, and have to desire that you will send 
them by a careful officer to camp by the first day 
of next month. Their time of stay will be so 
short that I cannot think it necessary or right 
that they should receive their clothes until they 
join their corps. 

(Signed) G. Washington. 


In reply to Cornwallis's request for con- 
veyance of relief to the wounded, Washington 
gave a signal mark of his confidence in his 
selection of Barry as his representative to 
secure the safe conduct of the wounded, the 
surgeons, medicines, and baggage; and when 
that work was completed Barry resumed his 
position as commander-in-chief of the port of 
Philadelphia, defending it from British in- 
vasion by sea, and harassing the enemy and 
capturing their vessels of war and merchant- 


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It is pertinent here to call attention to a 
letter addressed to " The Commander-in-chief 
John Barry of the port of Philadelphia," 
signed by twelve navy lieutenants seeking 
redress for "certain grievances/ ' which Barry 
transmitted to Congress. (See Continental 
Congressional Record, session, July, 1777.) 


Next we find Barry commanding a " letter 
of marque," clearing and capturing the 
enemy's ships then investing the Delaware 
Bay and River, and here he again gives re- 
markable exhibition of his fighting qualities. 
As you are aware, there were two elements 
controlling the naval forces of the Revolu- 
tionary powers at that time. There were the 
State naval forces and the Continental forces. 
Barry was now in command of the brig 
Delaware under the State naval forces, and 
made several important captures; he on one 
cruise brought into Philadelphia three cap- 
tured vessels. 


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Upon his (Barry's) return to Philadelphia 
he was designated to command a new ship of 
74 guns, but that ship was sent to France, 
Congress having concluded to present her to 
the French King, and Barry was assigned to 
the Alliance, the finest and fastest ship in the 
Continental navy. 


To secure further aid from France the 
Alliance was ordered to convey our special 
commissioner, Col. John Laurens, to France. 
His father, who had also been an envoy, had 
been captured and was a prisoner in the Tower 
of London, and great precautions were needed 
for the safety of our representatives on most 
important missions. 

Accompanying Laurens as passengers upon 
the Alliance, and entrusted to Barry's care, 
were Thomas Paine and the Count de Noailles. 
Barry safely landed his passengers in France, 
and Laurens succeeded in securing from the 
French King six million livres (gold), and it 
was this "hard" money that enabled Wash- 


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ington to pay his army, and absolutely neces- 
sary to the prosecution of the war — the Con- 
tinental forces had reached the end of their 
resources. It was this gold that enabled 
Washington to pay his army and transport 
it to Yorktown. Not only were the soldiers 
without money, but they were absolutely 
destitute of supplies, without medicine for 
the fever-stricken soldiers, and without cloth- 
ing or shoes. In addition to paying the wages 
of the soldiers in specie (the paper money of 
the government being at that time without 
value as a purchasing medium), this money 
bought them food, clothing, and munitions 
of war, and enabled Washington to compel 
the surrender at Yorktown. ' 


On October 19, 1781, part of the British 
forces had surrendered in Virginia, and instead 
of being sent to destroy vessels of the enemy, 
Barry was again entrusted with the safe de- 
livery of another envoy to France, her own 
distinguished son, the Marquis de la Fayette. 
The importance of La Fayette's mission to 
France was deemed by Washington to be 


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greater than any service that could be ren- 
dered upon the field in America, 


Washington, in his letter to Barry dated 
from Mount Vernon on November 15, 1781, 
wrote: " Respecting the operations of the 
next campaign, I do declare in one woixi 
that the advantages of it to America, and 
the honor and glory of it to the allied armies 
in these States, must depend absolutely 
upon the naval force which is employed 
in these seas at a time of its appearance 
next year. No land force can act decisively 
unless it is accompanied by a marine superi- 
ority, nor can more than negative advantages 
be expected without it. It follows, then, as 
certainly as that night succeeds day, that with- 
out a decisive naval force we can do nothing 
definite, and with it, everything honorable 
and glorious. A constant naval superiority 
would terminate the war speedily. Without it 
I do not know that it will ever be terminated 

Robert Morris, chief of Department of 
Finance, in a letter of instructions to Barry, 

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said: "I know your sense of duty and pa- 
triotism will lead you into all proper measures 
and exertions for the safety of your ship, for 
the success of her voyage and crew, and for 
the promotion of your country's interests." 

With La Fayette safely landed back in 
France, Barry set sail for a homeward cruise. 
Robert Morris * wrote to Barry: " I do not fix 
your cruising ground because I expect you 
will know the most likely cruise and will be 
anxious to meet such events as will do honor 
to the American flag and promote the general 


In a homeward cruise of the Alliance Barry 
fought and captured both the Atalanta, 16 
guns, Captain Edwards, with 130 men, and the 
Trepassy, 14 guns, Captain Smith, with 80 
men, engaging both vessels in a single battle. 
For more than an hour the Alliance, owing 
to unfavorable winds, fought under great 
disadvantage. Captain Barry was severely 

1 Morris was the leading shipping merchant of Philadelphia, 
and thoroughly informed about all the foreign sailing routes, 
as he was the owner of the largest number of ships sailing 
from that port to all parts of the world. — W. B. M. 


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wounded by a grape-shot through the shoulder. 
After a stubborn and manly resistance both 
the English vessels in the end were compelled 
to haul down their colors. 

The Alliance was much damaged in this 
combat, and in all the sea "was anything less 
fit to float than Barry's vessel, except the 
enemy's ships, which he had reduced to a 
worse condition." Never, never was a more 
brilliant action fought " and never were ships 
in a worse condition after a fight.' ' 

Barry in the Alliance fought and captured 
in one engagement both the Mars, a heavy- 
armed vessel of 26 guns and 142 men, and the 
Minerva, 10 guns and 56 men. 

Barry in the Alliance captured the British 
war-ship Alert (said to be a sister ship named 
after an armed vessel he captured at an earlier 
date in the Delaware River), with supplies, 
which he turned over to Washington for the 
American army. 


Barry made another cruise in the Alliance 
to France on an important mission, bringing 
into L'Orient four of the nine English vessels 


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loaded with valuable cargoes, sending the 
other five prizes under prize-master's orders 
back to America. 

barry's letters to la payette 

The following are copies of some of the 
letters written by Barry to the Marquis de la 
Fayette and to our own Benjamin Franklin, 
commissioner and plenipotentiary to the 
French court, while Barry was with his ship, 
the Alliance, in port at L'Orient, France. 

L'Orient, 28 Oct., 1782. 
Sir, — Permit me to acquaint your Lordship of my 
arrival in France, after a successful cruise. Wherein 
I took nine prizes, four of which I brought in here, 
the other five I sent back to America — a few days 
before I sailed I had the pleasure of seeing his Excel- 
lency, General Washington, who inquired very par- 
ticular about your health. I am sorry to give you 
trouble, but it would lay me under particular obliga- 
tions if you have anything new at court, or any ex- 
pectations of peace soon, you would let me know it, 
as I sail in ten days on a cruise and perhaps may soon 
go to America. Be pleased to make my best respects 
to Count de Noailles. 

(Signed) John Barry. 
To Marquis de la Fayette, 


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L'Orient, 31 Oct., 1782. 

Sir, — I had the honor to write you a few days 
past. Wherein was a request that I fear will be too 
much trouble to you, however, as it is of material 
consequence to me to know if it is likely we shall have 
peace or not. I, therefore, flatter myself from a 
former desire to serve me, you will indulge me at this 
time, and, believe me, I shall ever hold it of the 
greatest favors conferred on, 

(Signed) John Barry. 
His Excellency, 

Marquis de la Fayette, 

L'Orient, Nov. 17, 1782. 

Sir, — When I had the pleasure to receive your 
obliging letters I was very much indisposed with a 
fever which has confined me to my chambers this ten 
days. I am now, sir, just able to write a few lines 
to thank you for the information you was pleased to 
give. As for my going to Paris this time, it is out of 
my power, as the ship is rea£y to sail, only awaiting 
for my recovery, which I hope in a few days to be 
able to go on board. You say you are going to 
America. I envy the captain who is to take you. 
I wish I was in his place, but, although I am deprived 
of that happiness at present, I hope to have the 
pleasure to command the ship that conveys you to 
your native country, and then, sir, I will certainly 
pay a visit to Paris — and I hope to have the honor 
of seeing Lady La Fayette, whom I have not the 
3 29 

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pleasure to have ever seen. It was my brother that 
had that honor in Bordeaux, who is since lost at sea. 
Be pleased to give my best respects to Lady La 
Fayette and Count de Noailles, and believe me to be, 

To Marquis de la Fayette. ^ *^ ' ■* " 

barry's letter to benjamin franklin 

L'Orient, 31 Oct., 1782. 
Sir, — Having nothing to communicate to your 
Excellency of any consequence but my arrival here, 
and that Mr. Barclay 1 promised me he would announce. 
I, therefore, thought it would only be troubling your 
Excellency to write, as I was at that time in expecta- 
tions of being at sea before an answer could come 
from Paris. Some necessaries being wanting to the 
ship has detained her longer than I expected. 

Lieutenant Barney, of the Continental ship General 
Washington, being just arrived and who informs me 
he is immediately under your Excellency's particular 
orders — as she was built for the purpose of a cruiser, 2 
and of course will be of little or no service on that 
head. I think you would render great service to the 
United States to order her out with the Alliance \ who 
will sail in about ten days. I have the honor to be sir, 

(Signed) John Barry. 
His Excellency, 

Ben]. Franklin, Esq., 

1 United States Consul-General. — W. B. M. 

2 Not as a cargo carrier. — W. B. M. 


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Regarding the four prize vessels which Barry- 
brought into the port of L'Orient and already 
mentioned in Barry's letter to La Fayette of 
October 28, 1782 — it may be interesting to 
here mention that the sales of these four prize 
vessels with their cargoes, captured by Com- 
modore Barry in the Alliance, and sold at 
public auction at a somewhat later period in 
the presence of the Judges of the Admiralty 
and King's Attorney in virtue of the condem- 
nation of his Excellency, Benjamin Frank- 
lin, Esq., Plenipotentiary of the United 
States at Paris — amounted to the sum of 
$2,500,000 (gold). 

Here we have an evidence of Barry's innate 
modesty, a characteristic which followed him 
throughout his entire career — so becoming a 
naval officer and a gentleman — who, after 
capturing nine prizes on this voyage, bringing 
four of the prizes into L'Orient, wrote to 
Franklin (see letter dated L'Orient, October 
31, 1782, and heretofore made mention) at 
Paris, "Having nothing of importance to 
communicate of any consequence but my 


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arrival here (L'Orient), and that Mr. Barclay 
promised me he would announce. ' ' Evidently 
Barry was not afflicted with cacoethes scri- 
bendij or, as Juvenal expresses it, insanabile 
scribendi cacoethes — an insane desire for scrib- 


Barry, with the Alliance, on a cruise in 
foreign waters, captured an English war- 
vessel which had taken a Venetian ship as a 
prize, though Venice was at that time at peace 
with England; she was a valuable ship with a 
valuable cargo. Barry, with a prospect of 
prize money, could have claimed her as a 
prize to be disposed of in port and the results 
distributed among his crew. Barry, without 
hesitation, and acting entirely from the dic- 
tates of his own humanity and justice — ever 
zealous of the integrity and good name of his 
country above all considerations — denounced 
the English captain who had seized her as 
a pirate, set her free, and told the captain of 
the Venetian ship to go in peace. 

There is every reason to believe that owing 
to this affair and actions of a similar nature 


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taken by Barry in other cases, that a mutiny 
was planned among the crew on board ship, 
resulting from dissatisfaction (and also, no 
doubt, to the very irregular payment of wages 
by the government, owing to lack of funds, 
a not unusual condition prevailing throughout 
the Revolution) with these acts of justice on 
the part of their commander, that cost the 
crew so much of their prize prospects. Barry 
assembled the crew, addressed them from the 
quarter-deck, took their word that they 
would thereafter be loyal, and dismissed 
them to their duty, putting only the three 
ring -leaders in irons. When they reached 
home these ringleaders, instead of being 
executed (owing to Barry's pleas in their be- 
half before the court - martial for clemency) 
were permitted to enlist in the Continental 


Barry fought the last battle and fired the 
last shot of the Revolution, when, on the 
Alliance, in March, 1783, he left Havana, con- 
voying to our shores the Continental ship, 
Luzerne, both the ships carrying a large 


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amount of gold on Continental account. He 
encountered the Sybille (followed by two 
other English Wjar- ships) which he almost 
sank, and would have done so had not her 
consorts hurried to her aid. That was the 
last shot fired in the Revolution. This was 
the last naval battle of the Revolutionary 
War. Peace was declared April n, 1783. 


The "Log of the Alliance" kept by John 
Kessler, is one of the most interesting, won- 
derful, and admirably kept records of any ship 
that ever floated, and for the purpose of this 
review is too long to even outline the lists of 
important achievements duly credited to that 
vessel. Suffice, then, to state that it shows that 
the Alliance under the command of Capt. John 
Barry, who had selected for his regular cruising 
grounds the broad Atlantic (then closely pa- 
trolled by England's powerful sea force), sailed 
from as far south as the West Indies along 
or in close proximity to the regular chartered 
lanes or sailing routes to L'Orient, France — a 
harbor and friendly port in Brittany and in 
close reach of the English Channel. 


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m z 

[I a 





co en 



" > 







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"log of the 'alliance'" 

Barry, with the Alliance, made frequent 
cruises in foreign waters, in each of the years 
of 1781, 1782, and 1783. The record of the 
"Log" shows that in each and every cruise 
he made, Barry never failed to either "Take, 
destroy, or sink the enemy's ships." Those 
he captured in the waters of or near to 
England's shores he generally carried into 
friendly foreign ports, and other captures 
made in the waters of the broad Atlantic, 
that England's navy claimed as her own, 
he either brought direct or sent back un- 
der prize-masters' orders to America. The 
"Log" shows that Barry made many cap- 
tures of British ships with valuable car- 
goes and carried them safely back to home 

Notwithstanding that these exploits are 
recorded in the "Log" in a plain, terse, and 
matter-of-fact way, with no attempt at em- 
bellishment, still it reads like a story of magic. 
Here we must bid farewell to that grand old 
ship, for the Alliance was shortly afterward 


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Barry became restless, and, observing the 
hesitancy on the part of the shipping mer- 
chants to re-establish the foreign trade and 
commerce, he makes a trip on personal ac- 
count to European ports and to China; that 
was one of the first trips that started trade 
with newly opened ports, and, after accom- 
plishing his object, he returns to Philadelphia. 


Sir, — Finding that the government have partly 
determined to fit out some ships of war for the pro- 
tection of our trade against the Algerians, I beg to 
offer myself for commander of the squadron con- 
ceiving myself competent, thereto assuring your 
Excellency that should I be honored with your 
approbation my utmost abilities and most unremit- 
ting attention shall be exerted for the good of my 
country and also to approve myself worthy of the 
high honor shown by your Excellency, to your obedi- 
ent humble servant, 

John Barry. 
March 10, 1794- 
His Excellency, 

The President of the United States. 


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In the American State Papers on naval 
affairs, 1839, Vol. 1, the following copy ap- 
pears of a " Report of progress made in build- 
ing the (six) frigates authorized by an act of 
March 27, 1794." 

Philadelphia, Dec. i8 f 1794. 
To the Secretary of War: 

Sir, — As soon as the Appropriation Act of Con- 
gress passed, 27 of March last, we observed a navy 
constructor was immediately employed, who has been 
steadily at work, drawing the draughts and making 
the necessary molds for building on the most eligible 
construction; all of which are now completed and 
sent on to the different yards where the ships are to 
be built. And we appeal to all those who have any 
knowledge of the science of naval architecture, of the 
great precaution that was absolutely necessary in 
laying the foundation of our infant navy, and the 
time it would consequently take to digest a good 
plan, to avoid errors, and fix dimensions, founded 
on the experience of all maritime Europe, as well as 
that of this country, so as to have ships the best 
adapted for the service of any that was ever built of 
the kind, which we are of an opinion has been happily 
effected, and that arrangements to commence the 
building of frigates has been judiciously made, and 


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every pains taken to procure the most durable wood 
in the world — the live oak of Georgia; but the summer 
season having commenced before the appropriation 
was passed, at which time it is so very sickly in and 
about the islands of Georgia, that it was impossible 
to procure, and would have been both expensive and 
useless to have sent men thither to cut wood, if they 
could have been procured during the summer months. 
Early in October, however, a number of wood-cutters, 
that had previously engaged in Connecticut, arrived 
in Georgia, commenced their operations and have 
made such progress that one vessel has already 
arrived here with a full cargo; the master of which 
reports favorably as to the despatch of others that 
have been sent on by the Treasury Department for 
to take timber to different yards. The building of 
these frigates of live oak will certainly be a great 
saving to the United States, as we are well satisfied 
(accidents excepted) that their frames will be per- 
fectly sound half a century hence, and it is very 
probable that they may continue so for a much longer 
period. 1 On the contrary, we are fully convinced, 
from experience, that if they be built of the best of 
white oak of America, their durability at the utmost 
would not exceed one-fourth of that time, and the 
expense of building and equipment is the same 
whether the ships are of the best or of the worst wood 
of this country; but had it been determined, in the 

1 Time has proven the correctness of Barry's judgment.— 
W. B. M, 


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first instance, to have built the ships of common oak, 
no greater progress could have been made, as there 
was no timber cut in any of the States; and to have 
cut it in the summer season when the sap was up, and 
build the ships of wood in that green state, they 
would have proved rotten and totally unfit for the 
public service in less than five years from the laying 
of their keels. 

The undersigned, John Barry, has made a visit to 
Georgia, at the request of the Secretary of the 
Treasury, and is so well satisfied with the exertions 
of Mr. Morgan, who superintends the cutting and 
shipping the timber, that he has no doubt but the 
whole quantity will be cut between this and the month 
of February, and, if so, we are all of opinion that the 
ships may be built and completely equipped in the 
course of next year, as every preparation is made in 
the different yards, and for procuring all the material 
in the various branches, for going on with spirit and 

It must be remembered that, in the first maritime 
countries in Europe where they have regular estab- 
lishments for building ships of war, with dock-yards 
and large stocks of timber thereon, they seldom com- 
plete a frigate, of the magnitude of any of ours, in 
less than twelve months after she is raised, contract 
ships, built in the time of war, to answer the purpose 
of the moment, only excepted. 

It would be highly gratifying to us, sir, who have 
thrown aside our former occupation, and the prospects 


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that promise fair for increasing our fortunes, with a 
view of serving our country, and who have no desire 
of being mere 'sinecure officers, if we could at this 
moment embark and obey the commands of our 
country, in going in pursuit of a barbarous enemy 1 
who now holds in chains and slavery so many of our 
unfortunate fellow-citizens, the relieving and restoring 
of which to the bosom of their families and friends are, 
with that of having an opportunity to chastise their 
cruel oppressors, objects of our greatest ambition, 
and which we anticipate with all the ardor of officers, 
of seamen, and of citizens. We, therefore, assure you, 
sir, that every exertion shall be made by us in our 
department to facilitate the building and equipment 
of the ships to which we have had the honor to be 
appointed commanders and superintendents. 
(Signed) John Barrt. 

Richard Dale. 

Thomas Truxton. 

The following are the names of the six 
frigates then being built and referred to by 
Barry in his (the foregoing) letter to the 
Secretary of War, dated Philadelphia, De- 
cember 1 8, 1794: the United States, 44 guns; 
the Constitution, 44 guns; the President, 44 
guns; the Constellation, 38 guns; the Chesa- 
peake, 38 guns; the Congress, 38 guns. The 

1 The pirates of the Barbary States. — W. B. M. 

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United States was the first ship that got into 
the water under the present organization of 
the navy. She was launched at Philadelphia 
on July 10, 1797, the command of which was 
given to Commodore John Barry, who super- 
intended its construction. 

Dennie, in the portfolio (1813), wrote: "His 
(Barry's) opinion was very influential in the 
adoption by the government of that excellent 
model for ships of war, the superiority of 
which over every other has been so strikingly 
proved, as to have extorted the acknowledg- 
ment even of our enemies/ ' 

In the Journals of the Continental Congress, 
page 1118, Vol. 12, 1778, the following reso- 
lution regarding an expedition against the 
province of the east end of Florida was 

"Resolved, That Captain John Barry be 
and is hereby directed to take the command 
of all armed vessels employed on the intended 
expedition, and that this commission continue 
in force till the expiration of the invasion of 
East Florida (or until further orders of Con- 
gress). That he proceed with the utmost 
despatch to the State of Maryland in order 


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to expedite the galleys furnished by that 
State, and proceed with them to Charleston, 
in South Carolina.' ' 



The following are abstracts taken by the 
writer from some of the letters written by the 
Marine Committee. 

January 2Q, 1778. 
To Captain John Barry: 

Sir, — We have agreed to employ the Pinnace and 
barges belonging to the Frigates, and the barge taken 
up by Captain Jonah in the river Delaware on a cruise 
under your command. We hereby empower you to 
receive such war-like stores, provisions, and other 
stores from the Navy Board, and to employ such 
Continental naval officers not in actual service, and 
to collect such a number of men as you shall think 
necessary for officering, victualing, and equipping 
said boats. We have directed the Navy Board to 
furnish you with every necessary for equipping your 
little fleet, and money to procure supplies for your 
crews as occasion may require. You will give imme- 
diate notice to General Washington of such stores 
as you may capture — which are necessary for the 
use of the army. We would have you sink or other- 
wise destroy the hulls of all such vessels as you may 


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take, which cannot be removed to a place of safety. 
The vessels which you take and preserve must be 
libeled in the Court of Admiralty in the State into 
which they are carried. You will therefore employ 
some suitable attorney to libel for the same. Write 
to us frequently and particularly of your proceedings. 
Wishing you success. 

March n, 1778. 
To Captain John Barry: 

Sir, — We have received your letter of the 8th 
inst. and congratulate you on the successful com- 
mencement of your expedition and hope it will be 
attended with similar advantages to the public and 
glory to the gallant commander, brave officers and 
men concerned in it throughout the whole course. 
The good opinion you have of your prize schooner 
has determined us to purchase her for a cruiser; she 
is to be called the Wasp, 

We observe that you have advised General Wash- 
ington of your success, and expect that you have 
furnished him with inventories of what was on board 
your prizes. The prisoners you have taken and 
shall take you will deliver to the commander of the 
main army which may be most convenient to 

We thank you for the early intelligence of your 
success — your well-known bravery and good conduct 
gives us strong hopes of hearing from you often on 
similar occasions. With best wishes for your success, 


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March 26, 1778. 
To Captain John Barry: 

Sir, — We have received your letter of the 20th 
inst. covering an inventory of the goods lately cap- 
tured. We think with you that the Bay (Dela- 
ware) will be the best for your meeting with success 
and hope you will use your utmost diligence in getting 
your small squadron down there. With regard to the 
prize goods you have captured, one-half, in our 
opinion, belongs to the continent. If it had fully 
appeared that the schooner Alert was a vessel of war 
and belonged to the Crown of Great Britain or was 
duly commissioned a privateer by his Britannic 
majesty and you had held, she would have been solely 
the property of the captors. 

May 30, 1778. 
To John Barry, Esquire: 

Sir, — We having appointed you to command the 
Continental frigate Raleigh, now in Port of Boston in 
Massachusetts Bay, you are hereby directed to repair 
immediately to that place and there apply to the 
Honorable, the Commissioners of the Continental 
Navy Board, who will deliver up that frigate with all 
her appurtenances to your care. 

August 24, 1778. 
Captain John Barry, of the frigate "Raleigh": 

Sir, — Immediately upon receipt of these orders 
you will commence on a cruise in company with the 


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Continental brig, Resistance, Captain Bourke, between 
Cape Henlopen and Occracock on the coast of North 
Carolina, with a view to take certain armed vessels 
fitted out by the Goodriches or any other of the 
enemy's vessels that may be investing that coast. 
As both the Raleigh and the Resistance may soon be 
wanted to answer the purpose of a convoy, you are to 
manage your cruise, also, that you may be ready to 
receive future orders of this (the Marine) Committee. 
For this purpose you are once a week to put into 
Chesapeake Bay and call at the town of Hampton, 
where you will find such orders lodged, and you are 
to continue to cruise and call at Hampton in this 
manner until you receive our instructions. 

September 28, 1778. 
Captain John Barry: 

Sir, — We have received your favors of the 8th inst. 
from Boston and are sorry to hear that so many of the 
guns on board the Raleigh had burst in proving, but 
we hope they will be speedily replaced and that you 
will shortly receive this letter at Hampton, agreeable 
to our former instructions which you acknowledge 
having received. 

As you represent the Raleigh to be exceeding foul, 
and on that account unfit to cruise upon the coast, 
we have concluded that you had best proceed to 
Portsmouth in Virginia, where there is a Continental 
shipyard, and on applying to our agents there, Messrs. 
Maxwell and Loyal and Mr. David Stoddart, the 
4 45 


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master-builders in the yard, they will furnish you 
with convenience to have her bottom cleaned. Should 
the frigate Deane and any other vessel be in company 
with you, you will order them to cruise while you are 

Nov. 6, 1779. 
Captain John Barry: 

Sir, — As you have been appointed to command a 
new Continental ship l — that is now on the stocks at 
Portsmouth in New Hampshire — you are hereby 
directed to repair to that place and hasten as much 
as may be in your power the completing of that ship 
which we are desirous to have done with all possible 
despatch. We have now communicated our desire 
on that head to the Honorable, the Navy Board at 
Boston, whom you will please to call in your way and 
receive such orders as they may think proper to give 

Should Mr. Langdon and you agree that any altera- 
tion can be made in this ship that will render her 
more suitable than the present design, you will please 
to communicate your plan and a state of the ship 
which we will consider. 

Nov. 20, 1779. 
Captain John Barry: 

Sir, — Agreeable to your desire, we have appointed 
Captain George Jerry Osborne to command the 

1 This ship was the largest to be built, and carried 74 guns 
— nearly double the number of any ship then building or 
that had heretofore been constructed. — W. B. M. 


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marines on board your ship, but as it will be a con- 
siderable time before there is occasion to raise his 
men, we have been so early in his appointment on the 
principle of his being useful in doing matters relative 
to the ship until that time, you will please to observe 
and employ him occasionally in such business as you 
may think proper. 

The following letter from the Marine Com- 
mittee, ttie last one here to be recorded, may 
call for a little explanation; owing to the lack 
of funds to complete this new ship of 74 guns 
and the considerable time required for its con- 
struction, Captain Barry was appointed to take 
command of the Alliance. When this new 
ship of 74 guns, was completed at a later 
period, Congress decided to present it to the 
French King, and this ship was sent to France. 

Sept. 5, 1780. 
Captain John Barry: 

Sir, — The Board have appointed you to command 
of the Continental frigate Alliance, now in the port of 
Boston. You are therefore directed to repair thither 
as soon as possible, and when you arrive apply to the 
Honorable, the Commissioners of the Navy Board of 
that department, who will give you directions for your 
conduct in fitting and preparing the Alliance for sea 
with all possible despatch. 


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An account of Barry's achievements in this 
vessel has already been mentioned. 

(From original records at Washington, 
D. C.) 

War Department, June 5, 1794. 

Sir, — The President of the United States, by and 
with the advice and consent of the Senate, has ap- 
pointed you to be a captain of one of the ships to be 
provided in pursuance of the act to provide a naval 
armament herein enclosed. 

It is understood that the relative rank of the 
captains is to be in the following order: John Barry, 
Samuel Nicholson, Silas Talbot, Joshua Barney, 
Richard Dale, Thomas Truxton. You will inform 
me as soon as convenient whether you accept or 
decline the appointment. I am, sir, etc., 

Henry Knox, 

Secretary of War. 
To Captain Barry. 

Barry's acceptance reads: 

Strawberry Hill, June 6, 1794. 
Sir, — The honor done me in appointing me a com- 
mander in the navy of the United States is gratefully 
acknowledged and accepted by 

Your most obedient, 
Humble Serv't, 
The Hon'ble Henry Knox, John Barry. 

Secretary of War. 

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It may be well here to state that Barry 
had two residences — a town-house at 186 
Chestnut Street, between Ninth and Tenth 
streets, Philadelphia, and a suburban home 
at and known as Strawberry Hill, located on 
the (then) outskirts of the city. 


On the organization of the navy of the 
United States in 1794 Commodore Barry was 
appointed by President Washington the sen- 
ior officer, and was directed to superintend 
the building of the frigate United States, 44 
guns. On this vessel — the United States — 
Commodore Barry sailed, accompanied by the 
Delaware, Capt. Stephen Decatur, Sr., and 
cruised for the defense of American commerce 
in the West Indies, where he captured with 
his own ship the armed French privateers, 
Sans Pareil and Jaloux. 


On February 22, 1797, the last birthday 
that Washington spent in the executive 
chambers, he issued the commission marked 


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Number One, which made John Barry the 
commander-in-chief of all the naval forces of 
the United States (to take rank from the 4th 
day of June, 1794), and which Washington 
took occasion to hand in person to Commodore 

The gallant Captain Nicholson, then second 
in rank to Barry, wrote him from Boston on 
June 14, 1794: "Give me leave to congratu- 
late you on your honorable appointment to 
the command of our navy. I make no doubt 
but it is to your satisfaction and all who 
wish well to his country/' 

Fenimore Cooper, in his History of the Navy, 
1839, says: "that Barry's appointment met 
with general approbation, nor did anything 
ever occur to give the government reason to 
regret the selection." 


Dennie, of the Portfolio, in 181 3 — ten years 
after Barry's death — wrote: "Barry may 
justly be considered the Father of our Navy. 
His eminent service during our struggle for 
independence, the fidelity and ability with 
which he discharged the duties of the impor- 


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* • • •» j • • 

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tant stations which he filled, give him lasting 
claim upon the gratitude of his country.' ' 


Toward the close of 1798 and 1799 Barry 
commanded a squadron of ten vessels, and 
took with his own ship, the United States, 
two armed vessels, the U Amour de la Patrie 
and the Tartuffe. He continued to protect 
our merchantmen from depredations by the 

Barry advised in a letter a separation be- 
tween the Naval Department and the War 
Department — for by an act of April 26, 1798, 
the outlines of a plan and suggestions of Barry 
were practically carried out and adopted, and 
the organization which Barry suggested in 
that letter led to its original formation. 

A number of the officers and midshipmen 
who sailed with Commodore Barry attained 
considerable distinction in the service — among 
the lieutenants, afterward commodores, Rich- 
ard Dale, Barron, and Stewart; and among 
the midshipmen, Stephen Decatur, afterward 
commodore, and Richard Somers, who acquired 
much fame at Tripoli; also among the former 


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lieutenants and midshipmen were Jacob Jones 
and William Montgomery Crane, both of 
whom rose to the rank of commodores. 


The following are copies of letters from the 
Secretary of the Navy, Benj. Stoddert, to 
Barry, then on his ship, the United States, at 
Newport, Rhode Island. 

Navy Department, Oct. i, 1799. 
Sir, — I am honored with your letter of the 24th 
ult., by which I perceive that mine of the 20th had 
not then reached you. The reason there assigned for 
desiring you to continue at Newport, and not subject 
the ship to the delay which must unavoidably attend 
a journey to Philadelphia, will, I am sure, be satis- 
factory to yourself. I will, however, in addition, 
observe that your distinguished station at the head 
of our navy attracts the attention of all our officers, 
who observe your proceedings, and will in some 
measure form themselves by your example. In my 
last letter I informed you that it might still so happen 
that you might come on without any detention to 
the ship. I then had in view the particular desire of 
the President that you should carry our ministers to 
France, if they go. He has not, however, yet de- 
termined whether you are to be thus employed or not; 
from present appearances, I think it probable you 


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will not. You will, however, wait and hold yourself 
in readiness to proceed either to Europe or the West 
Indies at the shortest notice. I expect you may hear 
your destination in course of the present week. 
Anchors were ordered from New York and Boston on 
the 27th of September. 

The names of the officers of the navy with their 
relative rank will be sent you with my next com- 

(Signed) Ben Stoddert. 

To Capt. John Barry, 

Frigate, "United States," 
Newport, R. I. 

Navy Department, October 16, 1799. 

Sir, — The President having decided that the United 
States shall carry our envoys to Europe, you will be 
pleased to hold yourself in readiness to perform that 
service by the 1st of November at farthest. Two 
anchors have been ordered, one from New York and 
one from Boston, of which you will take the choice, 
and Messrs. Gibbs and Channing are directed to 
furnish you with cable which is to be made con- 
formable to your instruction, which you will be 
pleased to attend to. Everything must be ready to 
sail on the arrival of the Ministers. 

(Signed) Ben Stoddert. 

To Capt. Barry, 

U. S. Frigate, Newport, R. I. 


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The following, a personal letter from the 
Secretary of the Navy to Commodore Barry, is 
here cited, not altogether to show the confi- 
dence reposed and the evidence of the kindli- 
ness of Barry's personality, than to present the 
touch of pathos in the human side of nature 
and the unconscious parental solicitude for 
the boys' welfare where the dangers of naviga- 
tion and the ogre of grim-visaged war presents. 

Georgetown (D.C.), 24 Nov., 1800. 

Dear Sir, — I send at length my son and young 
Boyd, the widow's son, to go on board the United 
States. I am afraid my boy is too careless and too 
thoughtless ever to make a good sailor. I am afraid, 
too, you will be too kind to him, and he has already 
been spoiled by too much indulgence. I hope you will 
not treat him too well, not excuse him from any of 
the duties performed by other boys of his age and 
standing. I shall be much obliged if you will order 
him to be very attentive to learn navigation from the 
chaplain. Capt. Dale, whom I expect to go in the 
same stage with these boys, promises to tell them 
what to buy for bedding and stores at Philadelphia — 
which will save you the trouble. But, perhaps, Dale 
may not go with them, and in that case they may 
stand in need of your directions. 

The Congress have at last begun business 1 ; they 
seem to be better satisfied than was expected with 


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their accommodations — but they certainly have a 
great deal to complain of. The navy appears very 
popular with them, and hope they will form a per- 
manent system for progressing with it until we are 
able to rely on our own strength for protection. 

(Signed) Ben Stoddert. 
To Commodore Barry, 


When our present navy was founded Barry 
was selected as the commander-in-chief by 
President Washington, who well knew his 
Revolutionary services as did his successor, 
President Adams, when operations against the 
French were ordered — and again Barry per- 
formed some notable exploits in the capture of 
French cruisers and privateers. 

The very first record-book of our Navy 
Department has for its initial entry that a 
commissionhadbeen delivered to Barry to make 
seizures of French ravagers upon our country's 


In the treaty formed by this government 
with France in the course of the Revolutionary 


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Wax, it was expressly stipulated that in return 
for the aid about to be given (which later on 
was so actively and generously given) this 
country would return the compliment should 
that country (France) engage in war with 
Great Britain or any other country. In the 
fourth year after this government was estab- 
lished we declined to comply with the terms 
of our treaty. As a result, France captured 
a number of our American ships and seized 
their cargoes in order that British commerce 
and supplies for the British might be cut off. 
Hence the war with France. In 1800, by 
mutual agreement, after considerable negotia- 
tions, the difference between the two nations 
was amicably adjusted. 



After the election of 1800, when President 
Jefferson proceeded to reduce the naval forces, 
nine captains only were retained; of these Bar- 
ry was still the senior officer, commodore-in- 
chief, and head of the navy, holding that exalted 
position until his death, September 13, 1803, in 
his fifty-ninth vear, in the city of Philadelphia. 


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Barry died childless, without issue either by 
his first or second wife. 

To give sanction to the brief outlines of 
some of the important episodes in the naval 
career of Commodore John Barry that we 
hereinbefore have mentioned, I will take the 
liberty to here quote, in as brief a way as the 
occasion demands, from Dennie's biographical 
sketch of John Barry as it appeared in the 
Portfolio, July 13, 1813. 


Joseph Dennie was a contemporary and 
fellow-citizen with Barry; he was a journalist 
of note, a graduate of Harvard in 1790; was 
admitted to the practice of law, but ulti- 
mately devoted himself to literature. He went 
to Philadelphia to become private secretary 
to Thomas Pickering, Secretary of State. He 
was editor of the United States Gazette, became 
editor of the Portfolio in Philadelphia in 1801 
under the pen-name of "Oliver Old School/ ' 
The following extracts are taken from what 
Dennie, in 18 13, wrote. 

"So many of the distinguished naval men 
of the present day commenced their career 


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tinder Commodore Barry that he may justly 
be considered as the father of our navy. His 
(Barry's) memory is cherished and his char- 
acter duly appreciated by those who were 
attached to him by habits of long-tried friend- 
ship, by those who shared with him the toils 
of war, and by those illustrious men who ac- 
quired, under his auspices, those habits of 
discipline and that exactness of naval science 
which, combined with and directing their 
dauntless intrepidity, have recently won un- 
failing laurels for their country. 

" Commodore Barry served throughout the 
revolution with distinguished honor to him- 
self and signal benefit to his country. Even 
during the interval of suspension from public 
employment, occasioned by chances of war, he 
was actively employed in annoying the com- 
merce of the enemy in letter of marque vessels. 

" Having espoused the cause of liberty from 
principle, he was attached to it with all the 
glow of patriotic enthusiasm; nothing could 
divert him from it nor damp his ardor. 

11 After the termination of hostilities Commo- 
dore Barry was retained in the public service, 
and, when it was deemed expedient to increase 


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the naval establishment, he was appointed to 
superintend the building of the frigate United 
States, in Philadelphia, which was designed for 
his command. His opinion was very influen- 
tial in the adoption by the government of that 
excellent model for ships of war, the superior- 
ity of which over every other has been so 
strikingly proved as to have extorted the 
acknowledgments even of our enemies. 

"He (Barry) was eminently qualified for 
important stations which he filled. He pos- 
sessed courage without rashness, a constancy 
of spirit which could not be subdued, a sound 
and intuitive judgment, consummate skill, a 
generosity of soul which tempered the sterner 
qualities of the hero, and recommended him 
no less attentive to the comfort and happiness 
of those the fortune of war threw into his 
power than he had been ambitious to con- 
quer them. Having spent the greater part of 
a long life upon the ocean, he had seen every 
possible variety of service; he knew how to 
sympathize, therefore, with those who were 
subjected to his command; to this it was 
owing that, though a rigid disciplinarian, he 
always conciliated the attachment of his 


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sailors. It is worthy of remark that no per- 
son who sailed with him as seaman, officer, 
or passenger has ever been heard to speak of 
him but with the most respectful gratitude, 
and in regard to his seamen, especially, with 
all the extravagance of eulogy. He never 
found any difficulty in making up a crew, and 
desertion from his ship was unknown. 

" In the various relations of private life he 
was no less unexceptionable. As a citizen he 
was exemplary, as a friend sincere, as a hus- 
band tender and affectionate. The affability 
and frankness of his deportment ingratiated 
him with all who enjoyed the pleasure of his 
acquaintance; there was a native humor in 
his character which gave it a peculiar interest. 
His mansion was ever the residence of hos- 
pitality. Jealous of his own honor, he was 
never known to injure, designedly, the feel- 
ings of any one; and though possessed of a 
quickness of sensibility to the appearance of 
offence or impropriety, he never failed to 
express his regrets and make atonement for 
injuries prompted by an excess of feeling. 
He was just, charitable, and without disguise. 
As he was educated in the habits of religion, 


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so he cultivated them through life; he en- 
forced a strict observance of divine worship 
on board his ship, and scrupulously attended 
to the moral deportment of his crew; he had 
himself experienced the comforts of religion, 
and he died in its faith. 

"After our differences with Prance were 
accommodated, he (Barry) retained the com- 
mand of the United States until she laid up 
in ordinary, soon after the introduction of Mr. 
Jefferson to the executive chair. 

"General Washington had the highest 
opinion of Barry's merits and entertained for 
him a sincere and lasting friendship. 

"Commodore Barry did not survive the 
termination of his public services; though 
naturally of a strong and robust constitution, 
he had for many years been subject to an 
asthmatic affection, to which he fell a victim 
on the thirteenth day of September, 1803. 

"Thus closed the life of one of the first 
patriots and best of men. Commodore Barry 
was in size above the ordinary stature; his 
person was graceful and commanding. His 
whole deportment was marked by dignity 
unmixed with ostentation, and his strongly 
5 61 

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marked countenance was expressive at once 
of the qualities of his mind and the virtues of 
his heart. 

"The incidents adverted to in this sketch 
have been politely furnished me (Dennie) by 
two gentlemen now living who were inti- 
mately acquainted with Commodore Barry, 
and enjoyed his friendship from a very early 
period in life; one of whom sailed with him 
during the Revolution as a subordinate 

Dennie, in referring to Barry's exploit with 
four row-boats capturing the armed British 
schooner and four transports loaded with 
provisions and forage for the enemy's forces 
(the details of which we have already men- 
tioned), says: " General Washington always 
spoke with great satisfaction of this enter- 
prise. Indeed, he gave a public expression of 
thanks to the gallant Commodore Barry." 

Dennie further writes: 

" Having made several voyages to the West 
Indies in letter of marque vessels, he was after- 
ward ordered to take command of a 74-gun 
ship building in New Hampshire. Congress 
having, however, concluded to present her to 


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the King of Prance, the Commodore was ap- 
pointed to the command of the frigate Al- 
liance, 36 guns, then at Boston. In February, 
1 781, she sailed for L'Orient, having on board 
Colonel Laurens and suite, on an important 
embassy to the French court. He sailed from 
L'Orient early in 17 81 on a cruise, and, having 
taken many prizes, on the 29th of May an 
event occurred that deserves notice. On the 
preceding day two sails were discovered on 
the weather-bow, standing for the Alliance; 
after approaching near enough to be in sight 
during the night they hauled to the wind and 
stood on the same course with the Alliance. 
These vessels proved to be the Atalanta and 
the Trepassy. From daylight to 3 p.m. a 
fierce engagement ensued. When Captain 
Edwards, of the Atalanta, was conducted to 
Commodore Barry, who was confined to his 
cabin by a severe wound in his shoulder from 
a grape-shot, he presented his sword, which 
was immediately returned to him as a testi- 
monial of the high opinion entertained for his 
bravery, the Commodore observing, at the 
same time, 'That he richly merited it, and 
that his King ought to give him a better ship.' 


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The Alliance had eleven killed and twenty-one 
wounded — among the latter several officers; 
her rigging and spars much shattered and 
severely damaged in her hull. The enemy had 
the same number killed and thirty wounded. 
We have been led into the detail of this vic- 
tory, as it was considered at the time of its 
achievement a most brilliant exploit, and as 
an unequivocal evidence of the unconquerable 
firmness and intrepidity of the victor. 

€i In the fall of 1 781 orders were received to 
fit the Alliance for taking the Marquis de la 
Fayette and Count de Noailles to France on 
public business. On the 25th of December 
she sailed from Boston with them on board. 

"The Alliance left L'Orient in February, 
1782, from which time she continued cruising 
with great success till March of the following 
year, when, shortly after leaving Havana, 
whither she had been ordered to bring to the 
United States a large quantity of specie, hav- 
ing in company the Continental ship Luzerne, 
of 20 guns, Captain Green, three frigates were 
discovered right ahead, two leagues distance. 
The American vessels were hove about; the 
enemy gave chase. The Luzerne, not sailing 


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as fast as the Alliance, Commodore Barry 
ordered her captain to throw her guns over- 
board. A sail was then discovered on the 
weather-bow bearing down upon them: the 
Alliance hove out a signal which was answered ; 
she proved to be a French ship of 50 guns. 
Relying upon her assistance, the Commodore 
concluded to bring the headmost of the 
enemy's ships to action; after inspiring his 
crew by an address, and going from gun to 
gun cautioning his men against too much 
haste and not to fire till ordered, he prepared 
for action. The enemy's ship was of equal 
size with the Alliance. A severe engagement 
followed; it was very soon perceptible that 
the Alliance was gaining the advantage; most 
of the enemy's guns were silenced and, after 
an action of fifty minutes, the enemy's ship 
was so severely damaged that she hoisted a 
signal of distress, when her two consorts 
joined her. 

"The loss on board the Alliance was very 
trifling — three killed and eleven wounded. 
The enemy's loss was severe — thirty-seven 
killed and fifty wounded. The other English 
frigates were watching the movements of the 

6 ? 

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French ship, the captain of which, upon com- 
ing up with the Alliance, assigned as a reason 
for keeping aloof from the action that he was 
apprehensive the Alliance had been taken, and 
that the engagement was only a decoy. 

"A respectable gentleman of this city 
(Philadelphia) to whose politeness we (Den- 
nie) are indebted for important aid he had 
given us in the preparation of this article, 
was in the Luzerne at the time of the engage- 
ment. He says, ' Language cannot do justice 
to his (Barry's) gallantry.' 

"A gentleman of distinguished naval repu- 
tation, when in the Mediterranean with the 
American squadron, was introduced to Capt. 
James Vashon, Esq., now vice-admiral of the 
red, the commander of the British frigate en- 
gaged with the Alliance. In the course of con- 
versation he made particular inquiry after 
Captain Barry, related the circumstances of 
the action, and, with frankness of a generous 
enemy, confessed that he had never seen a 
ship so ably fought as the Alliance; that he 
had never before, to use his own words, ' re- 
ceived such a drubbing, and that he was in- 
debted to the assistance of his consorts/ 


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" His public services were not limited by any 
customary rule of professional duty, but, with- 
out regard to personal expense, danger, or 
labor, his devotion to his country kept him 
constantly engaged in disinterested acts of 
public utility/ ' 

Let it be remembered that Barry was en- 
trusted with special and hazardous voyages 
and especially instructed "not to go out of 
his way for a fight, but to keep clear of all 
vessels whatever " when carrying our com- 
missioners and envoys to France, and when 
returning from foreign ports with valuable 
cargoes of money, arms, ammunition, food, 
clothing, and supplies for Washington's desti- 
tute soldiers, which enabled the patriots to 
prosecute a successful war. Indeed, Barry, 
in a letter addressed to Richard Henry Lee, 
the president of Congress, calls attention to 
these aforementioned instructions "which fre- 
quently ensured severe blows and fewer cap- 
tures of prizes." 

Here, then, are some of the important naval 
episodes duly credited to that American 
patriot, Commodore John Barry, and in full 
accord with the facts of history. Fenimore 

6 7 % 

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Cooper wrote: "Commodore Barry as an 
officer and a man ranked very high. His af- 
fection to his adopted country was never 
doubted and was put to proof, as the British 
government bid high to detach him from its 
service during the Revolution/ ' 

notices op barry's death in public print 

The following notices of Commodore John 
Barry's death are taken from the news- 
papers published in his city (Philadelphia). 
In the American (Philadelphia) Daily Ad- 
vertiser of Wednesday, September 14, 1803, 
is the announcement notice of his fu- 

" The friends of the late Commodore Barry 
are requested to attend his funeral this morn- 
ing at ten o'clock from his late dwelling, No. 
186 Chestnut Street, between Ninth and 
Tenth Streets." 

"The members of the Cincinnati are par- 
ticularly requested to attend the funeral of 
their deceased brother, Commodore John 
Barry, from his late dwelling, No. 186 Chest- 
nut Street." 


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In the American Daily Advertiser (Phila- 
delphia) of September 15, 1803, the following 
editorial appears: 

" When the death of this gallant officer was 
announced the numerous ornaments of his 
naval and domestic characters freshened in 
our recollection, and a blameless impulse was 
felt to pay his memory the homage of our 
gratitude and sincere respect; a tribute which 
the generous will be proud to echo, and which 
the ingenuous cannot disapprove. 

" It may be needless to observe that Captain 
Barry espoused with ardor the cause of liberty 
early in the year 1775, or to say with what 
constancy of attachment and boldness of en- 
terprise he supported her interest during the 
war; all who have read the details of that 
glorious struggle must befamiliarwith the name 
of Captain Barry, and view in him a patriot 
of true integrity and of undoubted bravery. 

"His naval achievements would of them- 
selves have reflected much honor on his 
memory, but these could not have endeared it 


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to his fellow-citizens had he wanted those 
gentle and amiable virtues which embellish 
the gentleman and ennoble the soldier. Na- 
ture, not less kind than Fortune, gave him a 
heart which the carnage and desolation of war 
could not harden into cruelty; and the tenor 
of his naval career exhibits a proof that the art 
of commanding does not consist in super- 
cilious haughtiness, tyrannous insult, and 
wanton severity. 

*' In the pleasing view which his life presents 
we contemplate a trait worthy of admiration, 
as well for its intrinsic excellence as for its 
rare emergence in bustle and distraction of 
war — a punctilious observance of the duties 
of his religion. In the scope of his character, 
then, we survey with pleasure a warm and 
steady friend, a firm patriot, a mild and 
humane commander, a valiant soldier, and a 
good Christian, beloved by numerous friends, 
honored by his compatriots, and respected by 
all who knew him." 

The following ode, " Lines on the Death of 
Commodore Barry," by Michael Fortune, ap- 
pears in the American Daily Advertiser (Phil- 
adelphia) September 24, 1803, 


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Columbia's Friend! freed from this worldly coil, 
Now rests (so heav'n ordains) from human toil: 
A patriot firm thro* chequer'd life unblam'd, 
A gallant Veteran for his prowess fam'd. 
Beneath his Guidance, Lo! a Navy springs, 
An infant Navy spreads its canvas wings. 
A rising Nation's Weal, to shield, to save, 
And guard her commerce on dang'rous wave. 
Whoe'er the sage, his Character shall scan! 
Must trace those Virtues that exalt the man. 
The bold achievement and heroic deed, 
To Honor's fame the laurel'd Brave that lead! 

Long, for his Merits and unsully'd name, 
(Dear ta his friends and sanctify'd by fame) 
His clay-cold Relicts shall his country mourn, 
And with her tears bedew his hallow'd Urn. 

Come cheering Hope, celestial Cherub come! 
Say, that his Virtues soar beyond the Tomb; 
Say, that with Mercy, in ethereal Guise, 
His white-robed spirit climbs yon op'ning skies. 

Philadelphia, Sept. iq, 1803. 

The eminent Dr. Benjamin Rush, of Phila- 
delphia, who was contemporary with Barry, 
asked the privilege of writing the epitaph of 
Commodore John Barry, which was inscribed 


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upon the original tombstone placed over the 
grave in Saint Mary's Catholic churchyard at 
Philadelphia. Dr. Rush was active in the pre- 
Revolutionary movements and, as a member 
of the provincial conference of 1776, moved 
the resolution declaring the expediency of a 
declaration of independence — of which he was 
a signer. He was surgeon in the Pennsylvania 
navy, 1775-76, and in 1777 was appointed 

The following is a true copy of the epitaph 
in full, from the original manuscript written 
and signed by Dr. Rush. 

" Let the patriot, the soldier, and Christian 
who visits these mansions of the dead, view 
this monument with respect. Beneath it are 
interred the remains of John Barry. 

11 He was born in the County of Wexford, in 
Ireland. But America was the object of his 
patriotism and the theater of his usefulness. 

"In the Revolutionary War, which estab- 
lished the independence of the United States, 
he bore an early and active part as a captain 
in their navy, and afterward became its 

"He fought often, and once bled in the 

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cause of freedom. His habits of war did not 
lessen his virtues as a man, nor his piety as a 

"He was gentle, kind, and just in private 
life, and was not less beloved by his family and 
friends than by his grateful country. The 
number and objects of his charities will be 
known only at the 'time when his dust shall be 
reanimated and when He who sees in secret 
shall reward. 

" In full belief in the doctrines of the Gospel, 
he peacefully resigned his soul into the arms of 
his Redeemer on September 13, 1803, m the 
59th year of his age. 

"His affectionate widow hath caused this 
marble to be erected to perpetuate his name, 
after the hearts of his fellow-citizens have 
ceased to be the living records of his public 
and private virtues." 

As Dr. Rush was a fellow citizen, a warm 
personal friend of Barry, and a fellow-patriot 
in the cause of liberty and freedom, may I 
venture the suggestion (when Congress elects 
to have Barry's remains removed to a worthy 
and appropriate resting place) that the epitaph 
with certain modifications be reinscribed upon 


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one of the marble slabs of a mausoleum, befit- 
ting a resting-place for the remains of that true 
American patriot, Commodore John Barry — 
the Father of the American Navy. 

The present modest tomb where lie the re- 
mains of Commodore Barry, is located in a 
small graveyard which has been abandoned 
as a burial place and inaccessible to the pub- 
lic for more than one-half of a century, and 
presents a most gruesome and dilapidated ap- 
pearance to the sight, and a scene of desola- 
tion that is hardly describable. On account 
of the disintegration and decay of the marble 
slabs of the old or original tomb, on which the 
Rush epitaph was inscribed, a new tomb was 
erected on the same site by friends some 
years ago; the epitaph, however, has been 
replaced by another inscription. 

Incidentally, it may here be pertinent to 
state that Abbot, in his History of the United 
States Blue- Jackets, tells us, lf That Lord Howe, 
then commander-in-chief of the British forces 
in America, offered the American (Barry) 
twenty thousand guineas — over one hundred 
thousand dollars in gold — and the command 
of a British frigate if he would detach himself 


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from the American service," and Barry's an- 
swer was: "Not for the value of the English 
navy and the command of it all could I be se- 
duced from the cause of my country." 

My country, as it was, indeed, to Barry — 
whose zeal for his country's welfare was as 
unmistakable as it was unalloyed. 

Sit tibi terra levisl 

Washington, D. C. 


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Return to desk from which borrowed. 
This book is DUE on the last date stamped below. 


MJG19 19J8 
12 78 

LD 21-100m-9/48(B399id6>476 

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YB 37296 

iv;1513J6 Q « 


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